Animation Boost for Goopi, Bagha Magic
Having studied animation at Royal College of Art in London and with an experience of over a decade in creating animation content for children behind her, Shilpa Ranade was approached by publishing house Scholastic Books in 2010 to illustrate a book based on Upendra Kishore Roychowdhury's classic Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne. "Gulzar saab was penning it as part of the Potli Baba Ki Kahaani series and the idea was daunting. But I jumped at the opportunity," recollects 46-year-old Ranade, a professor of animation with the Industrial Design Centre department at Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.
During the year when Ranade was working on the book, the story grew on her. She would envision it in the old woodcut and print making style, and the characters eventually started to shape quite distinctly from the book. That is when Ranade decided to adapt the story into an animation film. Titled Goopi Gawaiiya Bagha Bajaiiya, the animation film, which she has directed, has been made in association with Children's Film Society, India (CFSI). "The title has been altered since the film is in Hindi. But the film is set in a world of fantasy where the architecture, ambience, inhabitants and ghosts belong to a world that is their own," she explains.
While the essence of the film, Ranade says, remains the same as that of the original tale "of goodness, adventure and giving back to the people", the story evolved. Singer Goopi and dholak-player Bagha, when banished from the kingdoms they respectively belong to — because of their cacophonous music — encounter ghosts in the jungle. Mesmerised by their jugalbandi, the ghosts grant them four — not three as in Roychowdhury's version — boons. Apart from assisting the benevolent king of Shundi reunite with his brother, they also help others.
While Ranade asserts that the fourth boon was the result of script iterations, it was also a conscious decision to distinguish it from the many retellings — including that of Roychowdhury's grandson Satyajit Ray's film — that already exist. "We have added our interpretations to the basic skeleton of the original. Animation demands a different kind of engagement from a regular film, has its own peculiar power as a medium, and we made every effort not to lose sight of this fact," the director explains.